The Phoenix Suns, despite some reservations about sending their star point guard to a division rival, agreed to a sign-and-trade deal. According to reports, Nash will receive $27 million over three years. His agent, Bill Duffy, said that Nash wanted to be closer to his children, who live in Phoenix.
The will receive two first-round picks (in 2013 and 2015) and two second-round picks (in 2013 and 2014) and a trade exception that the Lakers received in the Lamar Odom trade in December. The exemption made the deal work under salary cap rules.
The deal leaves the still searching for a veteran hand to stabilize their offense and to mentor Jeremy Lin, their promising 23-year-old point guard.
Nash, 38, has a home in the West Village and spends his summers in New York. But the Knicks were always a long shot to land him because of salary-cap constraints and a dearth of tradable assets. Their only chance was to acquire him via sign-and-trade. They made a hard push, offering a trade package built around Iman Shumpert and a bunch of minor players with expiring contracts.
Losing Nash increases the pressure on the Knicks to re-sign Lin, who was courted Wednesday by the Houston Rockets. The Rockets were expected to offer Lin a backloaded contract that could be worth more than $25 million over up to four seasons. The Knicks can match any offer to Lin because he is a restricted free agent.
The Knicks are also hoping to land Jason Kidd, although they are limited to offering the $3.09 million exception. Kidd could earn much more by staying with the Mavericks, who may be motivated to pay him after losing Deron Williams (to the Nets) and Nash on consecutive days.
The Raptors offered Nash a deal worth a reported $36 million over three years. The Mavericks could have offered just as much. The Knicks would have paid him about $25 million over three seasons in a sign-and-trade deal, though it would have cost them Shumpert, their best young prospect and their best perimeter defender.
To make the deal work under salary-cap rules and to give Nash a starting salary around $8.3 million, the Knicks would have sent Phoenix nearly every minor player available, including Toney Douglas, Dan Gadzuric, Jerome Jordan and Josh Harrellson, as well as Shumpert. The Knicks lost Landry Fields as a potential trading chip when he reached a handshake agreement with the Raptors on a three-year, $20 million offer sheet. The Knicks could have given Fields up to $5.3 million in starting salary in the sign-and-trade deal, which would have allowed them to offer Nash a bigger contract.
Fields averaged 9 points and 4 rebounds a game last season, numbers that declined from his rookie year.
Fields is expected to sign Toronto’s offer sheet once the N.B.A. moratorium is lifted on Wednesday. The Knicks will have three days to match the offer — though they have not given any signs they will — but they cannot use Fields in a sign-and-trade deal once he signs it.
Acquiring a veteran point guard like Kidd would give Lin time to develop. Lin became a sensation in February and had some brilliant moments, but he has started just 25 games in the league and remains an unproven commodity over a full season. He averaged 15 points and 6 assists in 35 games with the Knicks after they claimed him off waivers from the Rockets.
The Knicks have made it clear throughout the off-season that re-signing Lin is a top priority for two reasons: his improved play and his highly profitable marketability in New York.
On Wednesday morning, the Knicks reached an agreement on an offer sheet for a one-year deal with James White, who spent the last three years playing overseas. White, who was drafted in the second round in 2006, will make the league minimum of $854,000.
The signing of White was the Knicks’ first indication that they were prepared to start replacing their backcourt.
White, who is 6 feet 7 inches, has played the past two seasons in Italy’s Serie A league, the country’s highest professional level. He averaged 17 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists last season for VL Pesaro.
White, 29, said he planned to be a valued role player for the Knicks. “I’m not coming in to be a guy who doesn’t play,” he said. “I think I have the ability to contribute a lot and to make everyone around me better.”
Besides Lin and Fields, the Knicks are still hoping to re-sign Steve Novak and J. R. Smith. Novak retained his early Bird rights last week, which allows the Knicks to re-sign him for up to $5.3 million. Smith declined his option with the team last month, but he hopes to return for close to $3 million.
The Nets are reworking the contract of Mirza Teletovic to maintain cap flexibility and to keep alive their faint hopes of landing Dwight Howard. Teletovic agreed in principle Tuesday to sign for the $5 million midlevel exception. By rule, a team using the midlevel must abide by a hard cap of $74 million, which would virtually eliminate the Nets’ chance of acquiring Howard, and perhaps preclude them from re-signing Kris Humphries. At the Nets’ request, Teletovic and his agent returned to the table and were moving toward a new agreement for the mini-midlevel of $3.09 million.